NEW HAVEN, Conn. (AP) _ A Meriden police officer testified Friday that he was acting in self-defense and didn’t intend to injure a man who suffered a fractured skull after he pushed him, while a prosecutor reminded the jury the man was handcuffed and much smaller than the officer.
Officer Evan Cossette took the stand in his own defense Friday in U.S. District Court in New Haven, where he is charged with depriving the man of his civil rights and lying in a report about the May 2010 incident. Both sides rested after his testimony and a jury is expected to begin deliberations on Monday.
Surveillance video repeatedly played during the trial shows Cossette pushing hit-and-run suspect Pedro Temich of Meriden into a jail cell. Temich was in handcuffs, and he fell and hit his head on a concrete bench.
Temich lost consciousness and was taken to a hospital, where he was treated for a fractured skull and received 12 staples in his head, according to a lawsuit Temich filed against Cossette over the incident.
Cossette, who is the son of Meriden Police Chief Jeffry Cossette, testified that he was bringing an intoxicated Temich into the jail cell when Temich suddenly spun away from him. He said they were face to face and Temich appeared to drop his head and he thought Temich was about to strike him with a head-butt when he gave the man a firm push, expecting him to take a step or two backward.He said he told him get back before pushing him.
“I was really surprised when he fell,” Cossette said. “I didn’t intend to injure him at all.”
Cossette said the video doesn’t capture all the angles and depths, telling the jury they would have to be in the cell to understand what is occurring and the speed.
Cossette said Temich speaks Spanish and that he spoke to him in Spanish as well as in English. Cossette at several points showed his Spanish skills during his testimony, though he said he wasn’t fluent.
Prosecutor Paul McConnell quickly brought up on cross examination that Cossette is about 6-foot-1, or a foot taller than Temich, and much heavier. He also noted he was handcuffed.
After Cossette said he was fearful of what Temich was going to do, McConnell pressed him on whether the push matched his level of fear. Cossette said he pushed him only what he thought was necessary to get him to move back.
Temich was bleeding and unconscious and appeared to be having trouble breathing, Cossette said. He said he called for help and sat Temich up after someone advised him to do so.
McConnell questioned Cossette on whether he showed his police report to another officer before he testified to internal affairs. Cossette said he couldn’t recall if he did, but said he didn’t discuss the case with the officer or tell him what to say.
The prosecutor said that officer initially backed Cossette’s account but later changed his story. Cossette said the officer changed his story a number of times.
Cossette denied that he asked the officer at a party to support him.
McConnell suggested that Cossette lost his temper because Temich wasn’t listening to him.
“You didn’t think anybody was going to look into this, did you?” McConnell said. “You thought you got away with this, didn’t you?”
“I didn’t get away with anything,” Cossette replied.
Cossette has said the video was doctored to leave out several seconds that would show Temich failing to obey Cossette’s orders to sit down. Prosecutors denied the allegation.
Cossette was reprimanded after an internal affairs investigation and remains on paid administrative leave.
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